aving famous neighbours can be a problem. Sandwiched between Gevrey-Chambertin and Chambolle-Musigny it does not quite help having as many as five grand crus – Clos-de-la-Roche, Clos-Saint-Denis, Clos-de-Lambrays, Clos-de-Tart and Bonnes Mares (in part only, the rest belongs to Chambolle-Musigny) within the commune. Morey-Saint-Denis still finds itself a bit in the shadow of its more well-known neighbours. In the early 1970's a bottle of Morey-Saint-Denis sold for only half the price of a Gevrey-Chambertin or a Chambolle-Musigny. In this respect things has improved considerably for the Morey winegrowers since then, with prices closing in on the neighbours'.
Its origins are Gallo-Roman, first known as Moriacum or Muriacum. It was first mentioned in writing back in 1120. Over the centuries ownership of the land changed between the Abbeys of Citeaux, St. Germain-des-Prés and La Bussières-sur-Oche.
In 1023 a college of canons was installed up in the Hautes Cotes de Nuits, behind Morey-Saint-Denis. Among the relics in their possession was the cranium of Saint-Denis, Paris' first bishop who was beheaded after having irritated the tempers of pagan priests for his many conversions. This was during the third century and legend has it that after he had had his head chopped off he picked it up and walked the three kilometres/two miles where you today find the Saint Denis Basilica.
Documents show that the canons owned a cellar in Morey in 1242 and it is therefore thought that it was they who began production at the Clos-Saint-Denis (first mentioned in 1367) just north of the village. The original Clos-Saint-Denis only accounted for slightly more than 2 ha. Today's clos is 6.6 ha, according to a decree dated December 8, 1936.
Also the Bernardines at the Abbaye de Tart owned vines in Morey, hence Clos-de-Tart. Ever since 1251 it has remained a monopole and unaltered. Today it is owned by Mommessin.
During the 30 year war, in 1636, Morey was completely destroyed by fire.
In 1927 Morey en Montagne became Morey-Saint-Denis, 80 years after their neighbour Gevrey-Chambertin started the trend started the trend of adding the name of one of its vineyards to the village name. It took the locals several years to agree on what the village should be called. Neither Morey-Tart nor Morey-la-Roche quite had what was required. Morey-les-Ormes and Morey-Chambertin were also dismissed and even though Morey-Saint-Denis won in the end the anti-clerical lobby disapproved of it for quite some time.
Entering Morey-Saint-Denis from the north on the Route des Grand Crus after the first bend one arrives at the village square. Apart from the boulanger Guery there is not much here. But there is a nice view overlooking Le Village (both premier cru and village) and the other plots down towards the RN74. Continuing through the village one passes the church and a bit further down the road is the, for the region, somewhat oddly named hotel Cote-Rotie. There is however a premier cru plot at the top of the vineyards called Côte-Rôtie, not quite as famous as its namesake in the northern Rhône. In the village you will also find another hotel/restaurant – Castel Tres Girard.
In 2006 the Caveau des Vignerons was opened in what was once the village café opposite the church. This little shop represents a dozen or so of the winegrowers in the village. It was initiated by the local council and mayor Pierre Boisset and is managed by Sylvie and Thierry Beaumont of Domaine des Beaumont. A selection of wines is available for tasting and the total number of available wines is well over a hundred.
– As winegrowers we are often out in the vineyards and don't have the time to receive customers, explains Thierry Beaumont. We wanted to set up a shop so we can receive people on holidays and when we are out working. The prices are the same as at the domaines and the shop is open seven days a week. This far we have had good results and the customers return every year.
The appellation of Morey-Saint-Denis not only applies for red wine but for white as well. Still the production of white Morey-Saint-Denis is minimal. Only a few hundred cases are made each year.
The area under vines is less than a third of Gevrey-Chambertin's. With its 150 ha Morey-Saint-Denis is even 30 ha behind Chambolle-Musigny. Still there are a total of 20 premier crus, most of them very small. Only Les Millandes, Les Monts-Luisants, Clos-des-Ormes and Clos Sorbé are larger than 3 ha.
© 2013 Ola Bergman